World Bank President Jim Yong Kim has said Pakistan has a great opportunity to reform its economy so that more people are lifted out of poverty and prosperity is more widely shared among its people.

Noting that the government has stabilised the economy during three tough years of its tenure, Kim said he had discussed with the prime minister and finance minister the importance of pressing forward with reforms that would unlock the country’s potential. “Now is the moment for Pakistan to step up to a higher level of growth,” said Kim, according to a press statement issued by the bank about visit of its president to Pakistan.

Kim also attended State Bank of Pakistan’s launch of World Bank Group’s (WBG) support to Pakistan’s financial inclusion reform agenda, “Pakistan’s Path Towards Universal Financial Access.”

“The National Financial Inclusion Strategy has come at a particularly opportune moment as new technology and the rapid expansion of branchless banking offer unprecedented opportunities to transform financial inclusion in Pakistan. Pakistan is now leading the way in South Asia when it comes to digital finance and branchless banking,” said Kim.

Kim also participated in a panel discussion on “Managing Displaced Populations” and learnt how Pakistan managed a large Afghan refugee population. The event was co-organised by the World Bank, the Economic Affairs Division and UNHCR, in the context of the continuing global refugee crisis.

“There is much the world can learn from Pakistan, which has for decades hosted refugees from other countries or had to cope with temporarily displaced people within its own borders,” said Kim, adding, “We are committed to support the government of Pakistan in repatriating the crisis-affected people through the newly effective cash transfer project.”

Later in the day, he met with the provincial leadership of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab and learned about efforts for reforms at provincial-level, and development projects being executed and prepared with WBG’ s support.

Meanwhile, Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar received the World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and his accompanying delegation for a meeting at the start of the latter’s two-day visit to Pakistan.

The finance minister briefed the World Bank president on the economic reforms undertaken by the government which had led to macroeconomic stability in the last two years under the leadership of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The minister said now the government is focusing on consolidating the gains made so far and it is well set on the path of economic growth and employment generation.

Jim Yong Kim in his remarks said that it is his first visit to Pakistan and its significance that the World Bank attaches with Pakistan can be seen from the fact that three vice presidents of the Bank, including Anette Dixon are accompanying him.  He said it is very impressive to see the economic performance of Pakistan. “Our feelings are of strong support for Pakistan and our message is “yes there is progress”, he stated.

The World Bank President reviewed ongoing and future joint partnership initiatives for fostering economic growth and development in Pakistan.

He highly appreciated the fiscal sustainability and power sector reforms programme undertaken by the government.

He termed it all as highly impressive. Pakistan has improved its macroeconomic performance by reducing the fiscal deficit, keeping inflation to a manageable level and replenishing foreign exchange reserves. Dr. Kim praised government’s efforts to put Pakistan’s economy on the path of sustainable growth and encouraged continued reforms to boost development in all sectors of economy.

The World Bank President assured of World Bank’s continued support for Pakistan’s economic reforms programme and also for the energy sector development. President Kim stated that it was remarkable how much the government had been able to achieve in the last two years.        

World Bank Vice President (South Asia Region) Annette Dixon added Pakistan and World Bank have a strong partnership. She especially referred to the ongoing and planned projects in the energy sector. On structural reforms, Annette said the World Bank would be there to extend any assistance required by the Government of Pakistan.